Friday, October 31, 2008

Congo crisis - contact your elected officials - 10/31/2008


Dear Friends,

The situation in Congo is deteriorating dramatically
, and it seems that all the US media can focus on is the election. While this is an important, historic election, we must not lose perspective of the global imperatives facing us today. I invite you to join me in raising awareness about the crisis in Congo and urge you to contact your elected officials.

A BBC article today provides a good summary of what is being done, internationally, and I drafted a short letter to accompany an edited version of that story.

FCNL (Friends Committe on National Legislation) has a convenient website for submitting letters to the President and Congress:

You can enter your zip code, and your elected officials will appear. You can write all of them with one click (link is above their pictures). Below is the text I submitted to my elected officials for this issue: Crisis in Congo (Foreign Policy).

Along with the UN's IRIN news service briefings, I've posted two emails from Quaker field staff based in Kenya, Anna Crumley-Effinger (AFSC staff) and David Zarembka (AGLI staff), with updates from their contacts in the region.

BBC has an excellent overview of the long and terrible history of the civil war in Congo, in case you need more background:

They also provide a concise timeline of Congolese history:

Doctors without Borders also has a good press release on the conflict in Congo:

Congo is Kenya's neighbor, and there is a very desperate community of Quakers in eastern Congo, who need our prayers, attention, and assistance.

Please do what you can to:
  • take action by contacting your elected officials
  • to pray for the displaced and traumatized
  • and give support to relief efforts there.
Be blessed,
Mary Kay


Dear Elected Official:

Please urge the President and US State Department to take stronger action on the situation in Congo (BBC story below). The US should continue talks and join the EU in reinforcing UN Peacekeeping troops to end this humanitarian disaster promptly. We do not want to witness another genocide like Rwanda's. My particular concern is for the safety of women and children, as gang rape is now widespread in Eastern Congo. It is my sincere hope that US will be instrumental in protecting innocent citizens there. Instability in Congo affects all countries in Eastern and Central Africa. I look forward to your reply regarding your plans to help resolve this enormous crisis.


'Human catastrophe' grips Congo

BBC - Fierce fighting between government and rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo is causing a humanitarian catastrophe, the Red Cross has said.

It said the number of displaced people was growing by the hour and that the precarious security situation was making it difficult to deliver aid.

Intense diplomatic efforts are under way to end the crisis, which has displaced a total of 250,000 people.

A tense ceasefire is holding in and around the eastern city of Goma.

A spokesman for the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, told the BBC that the situation was "extremely critical".

A Congolese aid-worker based in Goma, Godefroid Marhenge, told the BBC's Network Africa programme that some displaced people were without water or shelter, and "in desperate need of humanitarian assistance".

Overstretched peacekeepers
After several days of fighting, Gen Nkunda declared the ceasefire late on Wednesday, and his Tutsi forces are positioned some 15km (nine miles) from Goma - the provincial capital of North Kivu.

However, Gen Nkunda has threatened to take the city unless UN peacekeepers guarantee the ceasefire and security in Goma.

Looting, killings and rapes were reported in the city on Thursday, much of it blamed on retreating Congolese troops.

Meanwhile, intense international diplomatic efforts are going in a bid to maintain the ceasefire and bring an end to the fighting:

• The parliament in DR Congo has called on government to negotiate with Gen Nkunda, although President Joseph Kabila has previously refused to do so
• UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he is "deeply concerned" about the situation, and has called on regional leaders to take concrete measures to broker a peace deal
>>> EU are diplomats meeting in Brussels to discuss whether to send troops to back up UN peacekeepers, after EU envoy Louis Michel met Mr Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame
>>> The EU is also to discuss sending troops to the area to aid the humanitarian effort
• An African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council is to hold crisis talks at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa
• US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer has held talks with Mr Kabila in DR Congo's capital, Kinshasa.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Congo crisis - IRIN report

From: IRIN
Date: Fri, Oct 31, 2008 at 10:09 AM
Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 454 for 25-31 October 2008
To: Patrick Nugent

CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 454 for 25-31 October 2008

NAIROBI, 31 October 2008 (IRIN) - CONTENTS:

DRC-UGANDA: Facilities overwhelmed as refugees stream to bor
DRC: Many aid agencies quit Goma
DRC: Government troops "on the rampage"
DRC: Instability increasing in Orientale province
UGANDA: Displaced first by war, now by elephants
KENYA: Child deaths on the rise
KENYA: Aid workers under siege


RWANDA: Ex-militia struggle with civilian life
[Full report:]

DRC: Eric - "There's real panic in town"
[Full report:]

CONGO: Bibouti - "I work non-stop but never see my salary"
[Full report:]

UGANDA: Post-traumatic stress rife in the north
[Full report:]

KENYA: Isolation wards vital in TB fight
[Full report]

GLOBAL: Climate change may drown cities
[Full report:]

DRC-UGANDA: Facilities overwhelmed as refugees stream to bor

Food, water, health and sanitation facilities at several villages on the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo border are overstretched as civilians continue to pour into Uganda, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said on 31 October.

The agency said the facilities were inadequate for the more than 6,500 people scattered in 12 villages along the border who are being hosted by the local communities.

"It is very difficult for us to provide assistance to the refugees at the border, where the security situation is unstable and people are scattered in various villages," Stefano Severe, UNHCR representative in Uganda, said.
[Full report: ]

DRC: Many aid agencies quit Goma

Several aid agencies have evacuated their staff from the eastern town of Goma, where an uneasy calm prevailed on 30 October after days of fierce fighting between government troops and those loyal to renegade army commander Laurent Nkunda. On 29 October, UN civilian staff were moved from Goma to a compound on the shores of Lake Kivu.

"We heard some shooting in town last night and heard reports of looting ... we have pulled out all expatriate staff to Gisenyi [a town just across the Rwandan border] but have tried to maintain minimum activities in Goma," an official with Save the Children told IRIN.

"This morning MONUC were saying the situation is calm in town. They said NGOs can carry out operations but should return to the safety of the UN compounds before 5pm," he added.
[Full report:]

DRC: Government troops "on the rampage"

Government troops went on the rampage overnight in Goma, according to witnesses in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) town, which renegade general Laurent Nkunda has threatened to overrun.

"Last night I was in my home with my family," Stuart, a resident who fled to Gisenyi in Rwanda, told IRIN. "Government troops were shooting outside, in the street, all over the neighbourhood. They were shooting heavy guns and breaking into people's houses, and killing people, and looting; I saw them. It felt like anarchy, there was no law," he said.
[Full report:]

DRC: Instability increasing in Orientale province

Airplanes may be needed to help some 6,000 people displaced during attacks by Ugandan rebels in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo who are not accessible by humanitarian agencies, officials said.

"The idea is to send food and non-food items in by plane, given that it is difficult now to send a road convoy because of logistical and security reasons," said Jean-Charles Dupin of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Orientale Province.

The civilians fled attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army in September along the main north-south road in the province's Dungu territory. [Full report:]

UGANDA: Displaced first by war, now by elephants

Marauding elephants in northern Uganda have added to the challenges faced by civilians trying to rebuild their lives in the wake of 20 years of civil war, destroying their crops and prompting some to return to displaced people's camps they had only recently left.

"The villagers are scared of the elephants; some of them have sought refuge in huts they had left in the camps," John Bosco Okullo, a local leader in Amuru District told IRIN.

Most affected are hundreds of returnees from six IDP camps - Goma, Anaka, Purongo, Ongako, Corner Nwoya, and Aler, all in Amuru District - whose crops have also been eaten by wildebeest roaming the villages in search of water and pasture.
[Full report:]

KENYA: Child deaths on the rise

The number of children dying before their fifth birthday in Kenya has risen in the past 10 years, according to health specialists.

One in nine children dies before the age of five. "For every 1,000 children born, 121 die, compared with 97 in 1990," Shahnaz Sharif, the senior deputy director of medical services in Kenya's health ministry, told IRIN.

"A shortage of skilled health workers and a lack of access to referral facilities are partly to blame for the increasing deaths," Sharif said. [Full report:]

KENYA: Aid workers under siege

The Kenya Red Cross Society has appealed for respect for aid workers providing assistance to thousands after its staff were attacked by bandits and accosted by security personnel in Mandera, in the northeast.

"Bandits attacked the Kenya Red Cross personnel who were returning from their work in Garissa [a neighbouring town], robbing them of their personal effects such as money and mobile phones," the agency said in a statement.
[Full report:]


© IRIN. All rights reserved. More humanitarian news and analysis:

Congo crisis - AFSC staff update

Yesterday I was planning to send a regularly scheduled update to you all. Instead I found myself reading e-mails from friends in the eastern DRC whose families or they themselves were fleeing the violence, pulling together news reports for our staff inside Bukavu, and planning for a statement from AFSC. At the same time, two bombings in Puntland and Somaliland of greater Somali also forced many NGOs to begin pulling out staffs in the regions that were formerly seen as the most safe areas in which to work. We have many colleagues affected by these attacks not to mention the implications on millions of people in Somalia.

So, instead of sending you a long update today I will just ask you to please think and pray for the people in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions. There is war to a greater scale then there has been in many years in the eastern DRC. The UN with limited troops in its peacekeeping force is working to protect civilians at the same time as many civilians are so upset it is not doing more and blocking its convoys and in some cases attacking its bases. The national army FARDC which has a terrible human rights record to begin with has been seen looting houses and retreating, causing even more fear among the population. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing in all directions and violence is continuing to a great extent. I obviously can not get into all the details of who is arming whom and which foriegn governments are behind the hostilities, but let's just say that the continued of arming of rebels and government forces is creating major problems and the civilian population continues to suffer to unprecedented scales. World Food Program convoys have been halted and are unable to deliver enormous quantities of food. internally displaced people are fleeing from one camp to another or sleeping on the sides of roads or in wooded areas.

Please be thinking of and praying for the population in which there are many Quakers, peaceworkers, friends of mine and friends of friends. For the aid workers, the people caught in the senseless killing, the government leaders, the UN envoys, the governments of the world who arm, and the corporations who pillage.

I hate to be spreading the perception of Africa as a war zone or starving babies. This is a beautiful place with wonderful people who are searching and working for peace. But right now many in the region I know best are fleeing or stuck in their homes. And they need your prayers.

To all those whose stories are untold but who are witnessing to peace!

Anna Crumley-Effinger
Earlham grad and
AFSC Field Staff – Nairobi, Kenya

I am attaching an update from the coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative with which I volunteer. I have lots I could say on this subject as well, but I want to highlight the section: "When you see all those pictures of people fleeing with goods on their heads, where will the women sleep tonight?"

Congo crisis - AGLI staff update

----- Original Message -----
From: David Zarembka
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 10:54 AM
Subject: AGLI--Report from Kenya--"Rape"--Oct 29, 2008

Dear All,

I received this sentence in an email from Theoneste Bizimana from Rwanda: "Hold in your payers the region of North Kivu [Congo]. I talked with Zawadi this morning. She said that the situation is very bad now and nobody [in Goma] was able to get out and go to work!!" I just received an email from Zawadi who is now in Kigali saying, "Right now things are bad, just spoken to my Dad [in Goma]--Goma might be captured tonight."

The rebel Tutsi warlord, Laurent Nkunda, is within striking distance of taking Goma even though it is "protected" by Congolese troops and the United Nations troops, called MONUC. You can even find items on this in the international news if you click on Africa. There are pictures of people fleeing the fighting which is usual whenever there is an attack in the region.

While a certain amount of attention has been devoted to the use of rape as a weapon of war I have not seen many explanations of why this is done. Here are my observations.

In this area of Africa there are rarely "battles" between the armies. Rather one side terrorizes people in an area, these people then flee and the terrorizing side moves in thereby "conquering" the territory.

One of the most effective methods of terrorizing a population is "rape"-- particularly gang rape. I submit that it is more effective than killing someone because the raped person is traumatized and he/she then affects his/her family, neighbors, and community. A killed person’s body would just lie there and, if no one saw it, it would not "terrorize" anyone. Reports of the mutilation of bodies have this same affect -- the mutilation terrorizes people who then flee.

Note that above I did not use only the female gender. When we conducted a survey of seventy-nine people in Burundi nine reported being raped; two were men. As everywhere in the world, rape is under reported and I expect rape of males is even more under reported than that of females. The rape of a male would be even more "terrorizing" than the rape of a female.

Here is the testimony of an anonymous North Kivu workshop participant who was raped during the First Congo World War in 1996.

"I was raped and contracted HIV/AIDS. So is my daughter of 12 years. We all lost hope--no one to comfort the other. We just saw death as the next thing happening to us anytime. But God has been gracious. People have stood by us and those [HROC] teachings have really helped me to live positively. I am always bitter about the rapists [i.e., she was gang raped] but that had not changed me. Instead it worsens the situation because whenever I think about it everything comes back fresh in my mind. I have understood the meaning of forgiveness. Many are times we wait for offenders to ask for forgiveness. In my case where will I meet them; and I wouldn't like to meet them anyway. I have decided to forgive them. I am going to share with my daughter what we learnt. I believe it will help her so that we may begin this journey together."

This kind of rape is, to me, only the most obvious, what I would call "violent rape." When you see all those pictures of people fleeing with goods on their heads, where will the women sleep tonight? Many will have to find a man, perhaps a soldier or policeman, to protect them for the night. The cost is "consensual rape"; the agreement to have sex with the protector. This "relationship" might last a night or two, or a week, or a month, but in the end it is temporary and the woman is turned out and has to find another "protector". The result is unwanted pregnancies and HIV. Many of the women at the Kamenge Clinic in Bujumbura were infected by this "consensual rape."

The solution is, of course, to stop the fighting. But as the Congolese Government and the international community (including the UN peacekeepers) seek a "military solution" which continues to elude them, the fighting will continue. Rape will continue to be used as a "weapon of war".


David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams
P. O. Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya 254 (0)726 590 783
1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104 USA 314/621-7262

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Job opening in Kenya - Friends Theological College Kaimosi

Friends United Meeting

Global Ministries: Faith in Action Opportunity

  • Do you want to do your part to "take away the occasion for war?"
  • Are you an active member of a Quaker Meeting or Friends Church?
  • Do you have skills, experience or knowledge to share?
  • Are you prepared to change your perspective on life and accept challenges?

Then perhaps God is calling you to serve among Friends in East Africa:

Principal, Friends Theological College - Kaimosi, Kenya

Chief Administrative Executive at Quaker college for training pastoral leaders in East Africa, located in historic Kaimosi Friends Mission of western Kenya. Appointed as missionary Field Staff by Friends United Meeting, reports to college Board of Governors and FUM General Secretary. Responsible for managing all academic, financial and personnel matters at the college. Includes academic and non-academic operations; admissions, bursar and registrar functions; maintenance and development of physical plant and farm. Major goals will include securing full accreditation and construction of new administration building and library. Requirements include minimum master's degree in theology or related field, minimum five years of administrative experience, and excellent written, verbal and interpersonal skills. Prefer doctorate in theology or related field. Pastoral ministry, cross-cultural and fundraising experience helpful. Quaker applicants encouraged.

For more information or to express interest, call or email Terri Johns at FUM.
Deadline for applications: December 15, 2008.
Targeted appointment by February 2009.

> Learn more about Friends Theological College - Kaimosi

> Learn more about Friends United Meeting's Global Ministries

> Download FUM's Personal Information Form and/or Application for Employment form

Friends United Meeting
101 Quaker Hill Drive
Richmond IN
Phone (765) 962-7573
Fax (765) 966-1293

> General resources for those considering cross-cultural ministry or missionary work.